About the Bentheimers International Society
The Bentheimers International Society was started in West Michigan (U.S.A.) by genealogists and “amateur” historians who trace their roots back to Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany. Many of us have researched as far back as possible in state, U.S., and Canadian records, and we are now researching the records in Grafschaft Bentheim (and also those in the Netherlands and neighboring German areas).
Not only are we interested in our ancestors’ dates and names, but we also want to learn about where and how they lived. The Society’s motto is Preserving and Connecting:
- Preserving. Members preserve their family records (letters, photographs, memories, etc.) by publishing their family histories and sharing information at the annual Society picnic and in the Newsletter and other publications.
- Connecting. The Society aids and promotes interaction between the County of Bentheim and places in North America where its emigrants settled. Many members have met German relatives (the descendants of the parents, brothers, and sisters of the member’s emigrant ancestors) while visiting Grafschaft Bentheim or when those relatives have traveled to the U.S. and Canada.
It is the Society’s intention that this website will further the goals of Preserving and Connecting. Furthermore, we will share knowledge about Grafschaft Bentheim and its North American settlements to website visitors who are looking for information that helps to “complete” their family trees. Please bookmark bentheimheritage.com so you can find us easily as our site grows. If you find our resources helpful, consider becoming a member!
2003: The First Newsletter Is Published
The only Newsletter to be published this year, Issue One weighs in at ten half–pages. Society president Herb Kraker writes about the challenges and rewards of tracing his family history in Grafschaft Bentheim—for example, his great–grandparents’ farm might have existed for 400–500 years, and there are distant relatives still living on the farm. He also notes his interest in connecting with distant family in the County. Issue One presents the Society’s first officers and features a translation of Chapter One of Ludwig Sager’s book, Grafschaft Bentheim in History. Translations of Sager’s 23 chapters appear in Newsletter issues until 2013.
The Society publishes two Newsletters in 2004. Issue Two consists of twelve half–pages and features the Klompmakers’ account of emigrating in the 1950s. Issue Three uses the full–page format for the first time and features the Heck/Vos families’ account of emigrating in the 1870s and 1880s. It also includes a profile of the early years of Bentheim, Michigan, and a notice of the Society potluck picnic to be held in August at the Bentheim Reformed Church in Hamilton, Michigan.
Gerrit Schippers, the first International Representative in Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany. Gerrit passed away in 2018.
2004: The Society In Germany Is Formed
In Issue Four, the Society announces its German International Representative. Gerrit Schippers lived in Veldhausen with his wife Albertine. He taught himself English and was an avid researcher of his own family history; his interest in the Society stemmed from discovering that he has distant relatives in the United States. “A few of my friends and relatives published histories of their families’ German and American generations,” he noted. “Sometimes we get tears in our eyes when we see what the first settlers experienced.” As our Representative in Grafschaft Bentheim, Gerrit connected local Grafschafters with their “Bentheimer” relatives in North America and translated the Society Newsletter until 2015.
During Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Time festival in May 2005, Gerrit and Albertine would attend the Society’s spring meeting, along with their relatives from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. While in West Michigan, the Schippers visited the Graafschap Cemetery and were amazed by the number of German names on the tombstones.
Above: Society members have visited the county together every three years. From the top: outside the castle wall at Burg Bentheim (2008); Society members visited Prague, Czech Republic, and Geneva, Switzerland (2011); a memorable visit to Denmark (2014); the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville–sur–Mer, France was also on the itinerary (2017).
2008: First Trip to Grafschaft Bentheim
In October, 36 members embark on a two–week European tour, including visits to York, England, Amsterdam, and Berlin; the Hermannsdenkmal (monument to Hermann the German) in the Teutoberg Forest; and Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great in Potsdam. The highlight of the tour is five days in Grafschaft Bentheim, where they tour many of the County’s churches, including the Moravian community at Neugnadenfeld. Society members get to visit with family—or, if they haven’t researched their genealogical connection to the County just yet, they visit with another family who can make them feel at home.
While in the County, the Bentheimers International Society members from North America and the County hold a joint meeting at the Lise Meintner Gymnasium. A high point of their stay in the County is an exclusive tour of Burg Bentheim led by Reinhard Prinz zu Bentheim und Steinfurt, with a greeting from Christian Fürst zu Bentheim und Steinfurt.
The trip is the culmination of months of planning by Society board member Ken Rabbers and International Representative Gerrit Schippers. They ride in style in a coach provided by Richters Reisen (expertly manned by Rolf the Bus Driver) and stay at the beautiful Hotel am Stadtring in Nordhorn.
Since 2008, Society members have been visiting Grafschaft Bentheim as a group every three years! We thank Ken for his efforts and unflagging dedication in spearheading the tours.
2012: Grafschafters Visit North America
In September, 32 visitors from Grafschaft Bentheim come to North America. Besides other attractions, they visit Greenfield Village and the Mackinac Bridge. In West Michigan, they stay at Hope College’s Hayworth Inn, visit the Heritage Center at Graafschap Christian Reformed Church, and meet the North American Society members for a joint meeting.
In June 2019, 42 Grafschafters make the trip. Destinations include Niagara Falls and Shipshewana, Indiana. In West Michigan, they stay with Society members, take in the Fourth of July celebrations—including the fireworks in Overijsel Township—and enjoy a breakfast meeting with Society members on July 5.
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